David Pinckney discusses experiences that led him to speak out against circumcision.
David's t-shirt “WHERE'S MY FORESKIN?” and others are available from CAN-FAP, The Canadian Foreskin Awareness Project.
It happened to me when I was roughly a week old (maybe I was 10 days old or something like that). It happened in a hospital setting; it wasn't a religious ceremony—my parents are Christian.
My mother said that it's something she never gave any thought to; it's “something that everybody did” where I was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in the 1980s. [Circumcision] wasn't questioned; it was pretty much automatic.
My father explained to me that he actually does believe [that] the medical arguments for [circumcision] are valid. Also, he [said] that even though [the] practice is not religiously obligatory [for Christians], he found it to be religiously advocated—he doesn't eat kosher food, he doesn't have a problem working on the sabbath, but when it came to this, he thought it was a good tradition to maintain…
How old were you when you realized what [circumcision is]?
Oh, I was probably about maybe 6 [years old] or something like that—I saw a little boy who was not circumcised, and I asked my parents, you know: “What's going on with this kid? Why does he look different?” They explained that I had been circumcised—that I had undergone an operation; [the explanation] was very brief and I didn't press any more questions.
Do you remember how you felt at the time?
Confused and surprised. I encountered people raising the question about it in literature, like when I would read a book about sex as a teenager—and I think there was like an issue of Men's Health magazine that came out in the 1990s [in which] they talked about the controversy.
When I heard there [is] a controversy, I started looking for information on the Internet, and there was a wealth of it—more than I could read. [I] occupied myself with that for quite some time (probably 2, almost 3 years), reading websites that were in favor [of circumcision], ones that were against [circumcision], [etc.]
I thought that the issue was pretty clear cut: The case made in favor of [circumcision] for medical reasons [is] shockingly unimpressive. The details; when you hear soundbites (like on TV when people talk about it), they never have time to dig into the details, and when you do, you find that there is no imperative to [circumcise] preemptively, and there's almost never any reason to [circumcise] in response to an actual [medical] condition either!
So, that made me very indignant—that this is something [about which] people are lied to. People think of it as a “trivial” matter when really it's not; you wouldn't be able to [circumcise the adult] me today, for instance—it would be recognized as illegal, and in violation of my autonomy. Yet, essentially, I am an adult who has been circumcised against his will, and for some reason it's viewed in a different light, and I don't see how it's different at all, actually.
Once I actually started expressing myself to the public, I found that I wasn't so upset about it anymore; it's actually kind of nice, you know. Of course, this [activism] is all predicated on the idea that we can actually make a difference, and I think that there is a sign that [this] is happening—the fact that only, what, 56% of [infants] in America [are being circumcised] today, and [that's down from a] height of like 90%; perhaps the Intactivist Movement (the genital integrity movement) has played a big part in that—I hope so! Also, you notice that in other areas where this [practice] was adopted under a medical guise (in the rest of the English speaking world), that's pretty much over now; [the prevalence of circumcision in those countries has] plummeted to single-to-double digit numbers ([the highest being] like 17% in Australia, or something like that).
So, clearly, the culture can change. It can change here—it is changing—and I think it probably just needs a little more of a nudge for maybe a decade or more, and we can get those numbers to drop dramatically; I think [that] once [circumcision] becomes something that isn't common (and people don't think of it as “normal”), then it's going to be a lot easier to push for legislation to change the law and make it so that everybody is ensured to have the right to [make a choice on] this matter [himself]. I think that's pretty much the end goal for most of us.